Sardar Singh, Virender Sehwag, Neeru Bhatia in selection committee for national sports awards

Harpal Singh Bedi 

New Delhi: Former hockey captain Sardar Singh, cricketer Virender Sehwag, 2016 Rio Paralympics. silver medallist Deepa Malik, eminent  sports journalists Neeru Bhatia and Alok Sinha are among the members of the  selection committee  formed  by the Sports Ministry for the national sports awards his year. 

The committee, to be headed by retired Supreme Court judge Mukundakam Sharma, also includes Arjuna Award winning former table tennis player Monalisa Baruah, former boxer Venkatesh Devarajan, who won the Arjuna Award in 1995 and sports commentator Manish Batavia.  

Officials from the Sports Ministry on the committee include Director General, SAI, Sandip Pradhan, LS Singh, Joint Secretary (Sports Development) and Commander Rajesh Rajagopalan, CEO Target Olympic Podium Scheme  

Two additional Members who have been Dronacharya Awardees may be invited by the Chairperson while considering the nomination for Dronacharya Award. 

The committee will be tasked with selecting awardees for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Dronacharya Awards, Arjuna Awards, Dhyan Chand Awards, Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar Award and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) Trophy. 


The pit temple of Bijbehara in Jammu and Kashmir

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Photo courtesy

Srinagar: A 29 July 2020 post on facebook illustrated with pics says: “The pit temple next to the river is said to be ancient Shiv temple of Bijbihara mentioned by Kalhana as Vijeshvara.

The word Bijbehara or Vijbor has been derived from Sanskrit word Vijayeshwar. It was an ancient site of Shiva Vijayeshwar.

The sculptures found at Bijbehara, a town in Anantnag district of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir are considered the earliest ones in distinct Kashmiri style of sculptures. A lot of material from Bijbehara was moved to Sri Pratap Singh Museum museum by the turn of the 20th Century

Vinayak Rajdan wrote about the Pit temple of Bijbehara in in January 2017. We quote: ” Although lot of old fragments can be found in the pit, John Siudmak mentions about a standing Ganesha, the oldest from around early 7th century AD. Although, Siudmak had seen it in late 1980s, in his book “The Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Ancient Kashmir and its Influences”, a Handbook of Oriental Studies, published in 2013, he reports the statue to be missing.” On visiting the temple site, Rajdan was left wondering whether this was the same Ganesha.

Bijbehara temple in 1906

Much through the 80s the site was a regular victim of religious strife. People would break in and vandalize.

Rajdan wrote this piece when terrorists were launching attacks in close vicinity of this pit temple.

Burzahom archeological site

Whatever remains of the Bijbihara pit temple in Kashmir is a sad reminder of the ancient Burzahom site – a prehistoric settlement in the village of the same name in the Srinagar District, 16 kilometres to the northwest of Srinagar.

Archaeological excavations have revealed four phases of cultural significance between 3000 BC and 1000 BC.

The different period represented by the Burzahom sites stretch from neolithic to megalithic to pre-history.

The remarkable find during this period was of pits which were inferred as dwelling units.

This site was nominated on 15 April 2014 for declaring it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site by the Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO, and is yet to be approved. The declaration is still awaited

The Kashmiri Pandits who were driven out of their homes in the Kashmir valley and were made refugees in their own country by terrorists 30 years ago, are sad, heartbroken, bitter, angry but there is also optimism. They feel Kashmir will once again embrace inclusiveness.

This is what they are saying on social media

You dig anywhere in Kashmir, temple’s will erupt – Rakesh Bhat

It’s our destiny given to us by cruel rulers. But destiny changes for sure in a lifetime. – Sanjay Koul

I am still to come to terms – what prompted a mass movement from a peace loving population to taking up guns fighting for liberation of Kashmir. Whether it were Jagmohans of the world or Abdullahs, the verdict was delivered, the society was divided and the brotherhood challenged. Kashmir was a centre of Sufi pilgrimage. Who in Islam doesn’t like Sufism? Is it the Wahabi. Or that some of our elite brethren felt Wahabism can replace traditional Sufism. And in doing so the turmoil erupted….The generations to come will search for answers why the peaceful Kashmiriyat was torn into pieces. Or that I am in a delusion about the so-called fabric of Kashmiriyat – Anil Koul

I want to play for India in the Olympics: Jr women hockey midfielder Mariana Kujur

 Harpal Singh Bedi 

New Delhi: Junior Women’s Hockey Team midfielder Mariana Kujur says that her dream is to play for the country at the Olympics.

The 21-year-old who was part of the Jr squad which won the Silver Medal at the 6-Nations Invitational Tournament 2018 in Belgium said that she wants to be among the best midfielders in the Game “I am a Midfielder and it gives me huge joy to be able to play my part both in attack and defense” 

Having established herself at the Junior level, Mariana said that her eventual dream is to play at the Olympics, but wants to also become the best Midfielder in the world.  

“My overall aim, like any other hockey player, is to make it to the Olympics and win medals for my country. But I also think about being the best Midfielder in the world.  

“I have so many great players to watch in our Senior team, and I believe if I can pick up the good qualities of all of those players, I can become a complete player, and help my team also become the best in the world,” Mariana was quoted as saying by Hockey India. 

She considers her fellow Odia stalwarts Lilima Minz and Namita Toppo as her role models, and has always looked up to them from the start of her career. 

“When I had begun my hockey career at the Panposh Sports Hostel, both Lilima di and Namita di were in their early years with the national side, and I would just be so happy to see them train at our academy whenever they would come home from national duty.  

“They have been inspirational in my career and I’ve also been very fortunate that they have been there to guide me along the way. When I see the journey that they have made, I feel really excited and confident because that means I can do such things as well,” said Mariana. 

The promising g Midfielder hails from a small village of Timna, which lies in the Sundargarh district, a hockey hotbed of the country.  

Reminiscing her early days, Mariana said, “I come from an area where hockey is played in every village with the use of whichever piece of wood we can find. I was fortunate to have my elder brother who was always very passionate about the sport, and I would end up playing with him and my friends in my village. It was in 2010 at the age of 11 when I finally gave trials and got selected for the Panposh hostel. It was at the academy that I realized my true potential, and here I am targeting a place in the senior team”.   

With both her parents’ occupation being farming in her native village, Mariana says it her dream to make them see her on TV one day. 

“When there is live hockey on television, my parents are often asking me why I am not playing at the Kalinga Stadium, like our Senior teams do. They do not realize that I am in the Junior team, but it is my dream to make them very proud, and for them, that would happen if they are able to see me on television,” She added. 


What worked for tigers in Madhya Pradesh

Suhas Kumar

Last year, on International Tiger Day, the Union Minister of Environment and Forests had announced the result of 2018 All India tiger and co-predator population estimation which made it clear that Madhya Pradesh now had the maximum number of tigers in India. Soon the Media began trumpeting from rooftops that Madhya Pradesh has regained its status as ‘Tiger State”.

Some naive people attribute the increase in tiger population in Madhya Pradesh to sheer luck and advocate that to sustain these number all the tiger reserves must open every inch of their territories to tourists. Such a view only highlights their ignorance of the issues plaguing Wildlife conservation in Madhya Pradesh and India.

The following four major actions taken by the Wildlife wing of M.P. from 2012 to 2017 are responsible for this success-

  • Large scale successful village relocation programme that provided much needed inviolate spaces for tigers
  • Improving the degrading grasslands of protected areas and transforming vacated village fields into productive grasslands.
  • Strengthening the protection and management capabilities of territorial divisions by training and equipping officers and staff for conservation of wildlife within their respective jurisdictions.
  • Revamping the Tiger strike Force to effectively control wildlife crime
    During the early days of Wildlife Conservation in Madhya Pradesh, despite the dearth of money and land for village relocation and rehabilitation, we were able to relocate some villages from Kuno, Pench and Satpura from Central government funding and mustered resources from state funds to shift several villages from Kanha and Madhav national Parks. Later in 2008, a reasonably better policy and package was launched by Government of India. (From 1978 to 2012 we could relocate only around 57 villages.)
The author (in maroon shirt) listening to the villagers at Janwar relocation site, Panna

But the problem didn’t end there as Government of India had little funds to spare. Here one of our most resourceful officers Jitendra Agrawal, who had joined as APCCF wildlife in 2012 (and later became the Chief Wildlife Warden), convinced the state government to allocate funds from surpluses in the Tribal department. The then CS and PS forest were quite helpful and soon we had enough funds to relocate villages from Kanha, Satpura, Panna,Bandhavgarh and Sanjay tiger Reserves and some of the sanctuaries like Ratapani, Kheoni, Nauradehi, Gandhisagar,and Orchha. The village relocation was thoroughly planned and executed. From 2012 to the present more than 100 villages have been relocated outside Tiger reserves and sanctuaries.

The managers kept a detailed record of all the aspects of relocation and ensured post-relocation hand-holding. Both Kanha and Satpura received international acclaim for their extraordinary work. And the end result was that the tigers of both reserves got extensive inviolate areas at their disposal and the prey responded to the additional areas as the sites were converted into flourishing grassland with the able assistance of Professor Muratkar.

We utilized the services of Professor Murtkar to revive degraded grasslands and create vacated farmlands into grasslands in several protected areas and even territorial divisions.

This way, huge additional habitats for herbivores were created and that helped tigers to disperse, occupy new habitats and breed freely. The surplus tigers began to move out of PAs and travel to the vacant habitats that were once inhabited by their forefathers.

The biggest issue before us was to protect tigers dispersing out from the safe confines of tiger reserves.
The central government was unable to provide sufficient funds for wildlife management outside PAs, where most conflicts occur and poaching as well as the retaliatory killing of wild animals takes place. Being intensely aware of this predicament the Wildlife Wing of Madhya Pradesh tried to persuade the state government to create a separate budget head under the state plan and this task was taken up by Jitendra Agrawal as the APCCF Development.

The initiative for creating a separate head in the state plan paid dividends and in 2011 we could succeed in creating a separate budget head for managing wildlife beyond PAs.

Sadly, when this budget head was finally created in 2011 some myopic officers, in the Wildlife Wing then, were not ready to own this head as the allocations were meant to be utilized by territorial divisions. It was only in early 2012 when I joined the Wildlife Wing and found that this important resource was not being utilized at all, I requested the CWLW to allow me to handle this budget head and he graciously agreed to it. We sat together to create a list of activities that territorial officers could use this fund for. Later after Jitendra joined me in later part of 2012 he further analysed and mapped the sensitive wildlife areas that helped in better allocation of funds to the neediest areas.

This additional resource came very handy in effectively combating wildlife crime, rescuing wildlife, erecting crop protection fences, organising skill training for territorial staff, compensating people for loss of life, injury and crop depredation expeditiously, experimenting with mass capture and translocation of problem animals to other suitable habitats and for funding research to create sterility vaccine that could be administered en masse to herbivores inhabiting farmlands.

The territorial officers, who were earlier reluctant to get into wildlife management and used to disown tigers that wandered into their jurisdiction, were now enthused into taking action, a series of training, supply of necessary equipment and timely availability of funds for habitat improvement and protection were the catalyst towards this change in attitude. Regular appreciation of excellent officers and field personnel through the State level wildlife Award given out yearly also provided motivation.

With my constant persuasion, in 2014, the State government ordered a mandatory six-monthly review of all territorial forest divisions to assess the efficacy of their efforts towards tiger conservation.

In 2008, to utilize a special central allocation of ten crores specifically for tiger conservation, I had written the concept note for creating the State Tiger Strike force at Bhopal with five field units located at strategic places that are the hubs of wildlife crime or transit points for wildlife trade besides the force there was a provision to establish fully equipped Tiger Protection Chowkies in the vulnerable ranges of territorial divisions adjoining Tiger reserves.

The tiger strike force was created from the special funds provided by the state by the Planning Commission for tiger conservation, two of these units were provided with dog squads (now more dog squads have been added). After my return from a two-year sabbatical, I was given the charge of Protection wing where during my field tours I realized that both the strike force units and tiger chowkies are in dire straits. I vowed to strengthen them. From the day I joined the wildlife wing in 2012 began working for infusing life into the strike Force and soon it became a force to reckon with.

These multi-pronged efforts contributed to the well-being of all wildlife in the state. It makes me giggle when I try to imagine how sheer luck compels tigers to breed more and shun poachers.

I am happy that there are wonderful officers manning the wildlife HQ and HOFF’s office now and they would ensure that the tempo continues and the entire FD as one unit works towards safeguarding wildlife and their habitats.

The author Suhas Kumar, is former PCCF Madhya Pradesh. Presently he is Members Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh State Wildlife Boards. He is a wildlife expert and has played a major role in devloping the Pench Tiger Reserve during his earlier stint as Park Director.